Supporting children with autism into adulthood

Sophia Hill, who has autism, photographed by Robin Hammond

For a teenager who has autism, growing up to become an adult with autism may have extra, unique challenges beyond those commonly faced by other teens.

Families of children with autism will also have to adapt to the changes that being an independent adult with the condition brings.

As with all teenagers on the verge of leaving secondary school, thoughts will naturally turn to the possibility of work, apprenticeships and further education, as well as any additional care, support and financial needs they have.

Teens with autism and their families do not have to do this alone. Support is available through a process known as “transition”, which involves a range of organisations, including the school and local child and adult social services.

It's important that the person with autism is involved with, prepared for and understands the changes that will happen as they reach 16, and in the following years.

One of the best ways to make sure the right support is offered is through a child's formal “transition plan”, which is drawn up with the various different organisations involved in supporting the teenager.

What is a transition plan?

A transition plan is a detailed document that highlights the future needs of a child with autism, and how these needs should be met. The plan should recognise, and be flexible enough to adapt to, their changing needs as they get older.

It should include plans for the support and services they will be offered, and how much they will need. Information about the "ideal" services they may need should be included, even if these are not available at the time.

Transition plans for children with autism will usually cover issues such as:

  • education and training
  • health
  • housing
  • transport
  • work
  • relationships 
  • hobbies, sport and leisure activities

When should a transition plan be made?

A child with autism will probably have a statement of special educational needs. If so, the process of transition planning should start automatically when they reach Year 9 at school (usually the year of their 14th birthday). The main time for discussing transition planning is at the child's annual review of their special educational needs. From Year 9, these annual SEN reviews are usually called transition reviews.

During their last years of schooling, the transition plan will play a vital role in making sure the child gets the support they need as an adult, regardless of their age.

When a child with autism turns 18, their support needs should become the responsibility of adult social care services. 

Annual reviews of transition for people with autism

Annual transition reviews provide the opportunity for:

  • the child and their family to discuss their hopes and wishes for the future
  • a discussion about the types and level of support from organisations such as social services, housing, health and employment, which the child with autism will need as they become an adult
  • all representatives from child- and adult-related support organisations to meet and discuss their present role and their proposed role in the future of the person with autism

More information on the transition process

The National Autistic Society website has detailed information on transition planning at secondary school age.

Page last reviewed: 14/05/2014

Next review due: 14/05/2016

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Next review due: 11/06/2016